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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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TAKE YOUR SINS TO CHRIST

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mark 1:40-42 ESV)

Jesus_healing_lepersLeprosy is a terrible disease in which the early symptoms are almost imperceptible and occur slowly. It may begin with a single small red dot on the skin which eventually multiplies into painless skin lesions over the entire body. One form destroys the nerve endings so that parts of the body lose the feelings of touch and pain. Pieces of the body begin to rot and drop off. This includes the ears, nose, fingers, toes, and other parts of the flesh. Leprosy also increases vulnerability to all kinds of infectious diseases.

Continue reading

WHEN FORGIVENESS IS DIFFICULT

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

Have you ever been hurt by someone? When we are hurt, we often desire for the offender to suffer as we have. We call it “justice”. Yet, how often do we offend God or grieve the Holy Spirit by our addictions to various sins? Christians know the hunger for forgiveness when we sin. We pray for mercy for our transgressions, not justice.

How can we ask God for forgiveness when we fail to offer forgiveness to others? Paul writes:

Continue reading

WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV)

salvation jesusA Christian is someone who has been born again in Christ to eternal life and salvation. His sins have been pardoned and he is in a state of grace. He now desires to obey God in order to please Him and glorify Him. He has the Holy Spirit to strengthen his desire and ability to live out his obligation to Jesus Christ. The Christian seeks to live life sincerely before God and to walk worthy of Christ.

Authenticity is the path of Christian sanctification. A Christian is not perfect. A Christian’s good works are the result of God’s saving grace. Good works do not save anyone; they are the consequence of having been saved. Even faith is the gift of God. Christians still err, but they are grieved when they do. The Christian’s grief leads to repentance. Sincere repentance leads to God’s forgiveness. God is faithful and just to forgive sins and to cleanse the Christian from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV) Continue reading

MAKING PEARLS

Pearl-oyster11Charles H. Spurgeon:

I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate “the pearl oyster”—A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot reject the evil, but what does it do but “cover” it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl! Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which otherwise would have harmed us.

 

 

THE REAL DEAL

Samuel A Cain“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15 ESV)

Augustine wrote, “It is not the being seen of men that is wrong, but doing these things for the purpose of being seen of men. The problem with the hypocrite is his motivation. He does not want to be holy; he only wants to seem to be holy. He is more concerned with his reputation for righteousness than about actually becoming righteous. The approbation of men matters more to him than the approval of God.” As a Christian, do you seek to avoid this obvious hypocrisy in your own life?

The Apostle John teaches us that if we believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, we know that we abide in Christ and Christ in us. (1 John 3:24 ESV) We can believe and obey because God has given us His Holy Spirit. We may cast off the chain of sins and lies which made us hypocrites and be renewed after the image of our creator. (Colossians 3:7-10 ESV) We now live by faith in the Son of God. (Galatians 2:20 ESV) Continue reading

I THOUGHT ONCE …

I thought once I had no need of salvation,
To the depth of my sin I was blind.
The thought of my need for forgiveness
Was folly to my human mind.

Yet, God’s plan of election was for me,
His Spirit gave faith to my heart.
None of my works were considered,
If ever I had been so smart.

By grace I was saved from the darkness
And brought into His brilliant Light.
No ability had I to contribute
To the birth carried out by His Might!

God’s Love is no flash of emotion,
Eventually to dim and die out.
He will always be there to guide me,
To save me from the evil’s dark rout.

A blessed hope is now awaiting,
Jesus secured it on the Cross.
Salvation is there before me,
God’s sheep will never be lost.

Samuel at Gilgal

Pearls

pearl oysterCharles H. Spurgeon:

I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate “the pearl oyster”—A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot reject the evil, but what does it do but “cover” it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl! Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which otherwise would have harmed us.

Repentance and Forgiveness Go Together

The unity of repentance with forgiveness is necessary for the completeness of salvation. Repentance and forgiveness are found in the experience of all believers. Any man who has sincerely repented of sin with believing faith has been forgiven and any man who has been forgiven has also repented of his sin. I am sure there is not and will never be any case of sin being washed away, unless the heart is also led to repentance and faith in Christ. Charles H. Spurgeon writes on this subject:

[R]epentance is bound up with the forgiveness of sins. In Acts v. 31 we read that Jesus is “exalted to give repentance and forgiveness of sins.” These two blessings come from that sacred hand which once was nailed to the tree, but is now raised to glory. Repentance and forgiveness are riveted together by the eternal purpose of God. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

Repentance must go with remission, and you will see that it is so if you think a little upon the matter. It cannot be that pardon of sin should be given to an impenitent sinner; this would confirm him in his evil ways, and teach him to think little of evil. If the Lord were to say, “You love sin, and live in it, and you are going on from bad to worse, but, all the same, I forgive you,” this would be to proclaim a horrible license for iniquity. The foundations of social order would be removed, and moral anarchy would follow. I cannot tell what innumerable mischief would certainly occur if you could divide repentance and forgiveness, and pass by the sin while the sinner remained as fond of it as ever. In the very nature of things, if we believe in the holiness of God, it must be so, that if we continue in our sin, and will not repent of it, we cannot be forgiven, but must reap the consequence of our obstinacy. According to the infinite goodness of God, we are promised that if we will forsake our sins, confessing them, and will, by faith, accept the grace which is provided in Christ Jesus, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. . . .

That mercy which could forgive the sin and yet let the sinner live in it would be scant and superficial mercy. It would be unequal and deformed mercy, lame upon one of its feet, and withered as to one of its hands. Which, think you, is the greater privilege, cleansing from the guilt of sin, or deliverance from the power of sin? I will not attempt to weigh in the scales two mercies so surpassing. Neither of them could have come to us apart from the precious blood of Jesus. But it seems to me that to be delivered from the dominion of sin, to be made holy, to be made like to God, must be reckoned the greater of the two, if a comparison has to be drawn. To be forgiven is an immeasurable favour. We make this one of the first notes of our psalm of praise: “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities.” But if we could be forgiven, and then could be permitted to love sin, to riot in iniquity, and to wallow in lust, what would be the use of such a forgiveness? Might it not turn out to be a poisoned sweet, which would most effectually destroy us? To be washed, and yet to lie in the mire; to be pronounced clean, and yet to have the leprosy white on one’s brow, would be the very mockery of mercy. What is it to bring the man out of his sepulchre if you leave him dead? Why lead him into the light if he is still blind? We thank God, that He who forgives our iniquities also heals our diseases. He who washes us from the stains of the past also uplifts us from the foul ways of the present, and keeps us from failing in the future. We must joyfully accept both repentance and remission; they cannot be separated. The covenant heritage is one and indivisible, and must not be parcelled out. To divide the work of grace would be to cut the living child in halves, and those who would permit this have no interest in it. (All of Grace)

Charles Spurgeon On Justifying The Ungodly

Charles H. Spurgeon

I believe that a sinner justified by God stands on much firmer ground than a righteous man justified by his works; if such a person existed. How could you ever be sure if you had done enough good works? Our own judgement is too fallible to rely upon. On the other hand, when God Himself justifies, and the Holy Spirit bears witness by giving us peace with God, by faith we know that the matter is sure and settled, and we know that we are secure in God’s Hands. Consider this from the writings of Charles H. Spurgeon:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. . . . (Romans 4:5)

[N]one but God would think of justifying the ungodly, and none but God could do it . . . See how the apostle puts the challenge, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” If God has justified a man it is well done, it is rightly done, it is justly done, and it is everlastingly done. I read a statement in a magazine which is full of venom against the gospel and those who preach it, that we hold some kind of theory by which we imagine that sin can be removed from men. We hold no theory, we publish a fact. The grandest fact under heaven is this—that Christ by His precious blood does actually put away sin, and that God, for Christ’s sake, dealing with men on terms of divine mercy, forgives the guilty and justifies them, not according to anything that He sees in them, or foresees will be in them, but according to the riches of His mercy which lie in His own heart. This we have preached, do preach, and will preach as long as we live. “It is God that justifieth”—that justifieth the ungodly; He is not ashamed of doing it, nor are we of preaching it.

The justification which comes from God himself must be beyond question. If the Judge acquits me, who can condemn me? If the highest court in the universe has pronounced me just, who shall lay anything to my charge? Justification from God is a sufficient answer to an awakened conscience. The Holy Spirit by its means breathes peace over our entire nature, and we are no longer afraid. With this justification we can answer all the roarings and railings of Satan and ungodly men. With this we shall be able to die: with this we shall boldly rise again, and face the last great assize.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,

For who aught to my charge shall lay?

While by my Lord absolved I am

From sin’s tremendous curse and blame.

(Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf)

Friend, the Lord can blot out all your sins. I make no shot in the dark when I say this. “All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” Though you are steeped up to your throat in crime, He can with a word remove the defilement, and say, “I will, be thou clean.” The Lord is a great forgiver. “I believe in the Forgiveness of Sins.” Do You? (“All of Grace’)

Betrayal: The Death Of Trust And Loyalty

V for VENDETTA

Have you ever been betrayed by someone you thought you could completely trust? Perhaps it was a spouse, a relative, a friend, or a group of friends, or people you respected. How is it that we can live in a world that is referred to as “civilized”, yet where human beings have no sense of honor, and loyalty has become a fiction of the imagination? Seneca, the great Roman statesman and historian, spoke to this dilemma when he commented: “It’s a vice to trust all, and equally a vice to trust none.”

A very common response to a broken trust is anger and disgust at the lack of integrity demonstrated by the other person. Even if the relationship is mended and the incident forgiven, can the same level of trust that once existed be restored? Trust is very fragile and can be lost instantly. Playwright Tennessee Williams once said, “We have to distrust each other. It’s our only defense against betrayal.” Is this the answer?

Persons who feel betrayed may sometimes seek some form of vengeance (which they consider justice) to make right for them what they feel has been the injustice committed against them. They honestly believe that this response will make them feel better about themselves.

It is clear, however, that trust defines every interaction in our relationships; it builds intimacy and it strengthens bonds. Without trust no relationship can thrive. If you have ever had your trust betrayed, then you know how hard it can be to let go, move on, and repair the damage. Many times the burned person just wants to cut his losses and end the relationship. This is because the one betrayed feels like he has been sent a message that he doesn’t matter very much.

Even when the ordinary pains of life are expected, it still makes life difficult. When pain, however, is unexpected – such as in an incident of betrayal – it is much worse. Any change in the status quo is more painful when it is unexpected.

As Christians, how are we to respond when we find ourselves on the receiving end of “betrayal”? William Temple wrote, “Only one petition in the Lord’s Prayer has any condition attached to it; it is the petition for forgiveness.”

12 “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6)

This principle is repeated many times in the Scriptures in verses such as this one:

37 “forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6)

George Herbert put it this way: “He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven.” Peace of mind comes only with the ability to forgive.

Once you have forgiven, never keep going over the incident in your imagination or conversation. This will only stir up your anger and keep you from finding peace. Never hold it over the other person as a “trump card”.

You’re only human, so things probably won’t go back to exactly the way they once were. It is important to understand that some people simply do not value trust, honor, and loyalty to begin with. Thus, they are not likely to change in the future. Once you forgive, however, you can move on to develop a more “godly-wise” trust. You begin to realize that you didn’t put perfect people up on your pedestals. We are all sinners saved by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even Christians are still sinners as we journey through life, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and to grow in grace.

Healing and restoration are possible. Even if the person or persons responsible for your pain never apologize or ask for forgiveness, you can find peace of mind. Fanny Crosby explains this process in her hymn, “Balm in Secret Prayer”:

Pray on, pray on, O trusting heart,
Let not thy courage fail;
But take thy Savior at His word,
And know thou shalt prevail.

Tho’ the cross is hard to bear,
There is balm in secret prayer;
Go and tell thy sorrows there,
And leave it all with Jesus.

Perhaps in some desponding hour,
When hope has well nigh past,
The light will burst upon thy soul,
And joy be thine at last.

Pray on, pray on, O weary not,
Whate’er thy trial be;
But lean thy faith on Him Who said,
“It shall be well with thee.”
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